Bringing military grade training to the boardroom

by FM Media
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10,000 Hours, a professional services firm specialising in helping adults, leaders and executives to improve their professional fitness, has introduced a new executive education course – Complex Adaptive Leadership. The first of its kind, the course provides leaders with a framework and program of practice to build fitness for uncertainty and complexity, which completely changes the way we educate executives and business leaders.

For decades, most leadership development curriculum has taught frameworks, tools and models for predicting and controlling situations. Reliable cause-and-effect promises have been baked into these tools, promising leaders from any industry overly simplistic solutions to any problem.

However, Marcus Crow, co-founder at 10,000 Hours, believes the engineering roots of management education are responsible for this and are a lot less relevant in today’s unpredictable business landscape.

“Management or leadership approaches have been in need of an upgrade for some time. Traditionally they are  blind to the inherent uncertainty that exists in social systems. They ignore the need to help leaders acquire skills for the surprises that are inevitable in all organisations. They don’t take into account the context of each individual situation. It’s unreasonable and naive to suggest we can predict or imply a knowable world of cause and effect,” he explains.

“With so many variables in the world, so many situations that have never happened before, and the increasing hyper-connectivity that triggers huge consequences from the smallest of actions, we knew we needed a better way to help leaders navigate these unpredictable waters.”

As such, 10,000 Hours has incorporated and embraced the complexity sciences into its new approach. Law enforcement, military and counterterrorism did it years ago and made use of complexity science to equip their operatives for the work they are called to do. While clearly less lethal, co-founder of 10,000 Hours Chris Maxwell believes the contexts managers are asked to work within are just as equally unpredictable and uncertain.

“Sometimes things work as anticipated, yet many times they don’t. Sometimes the big grand CEO announcement generates little to no desired effect, while sometimes one tiny utterance in a company-wide email rings on and on in the corridors of the business for months or years. This nonlinear effect is not recognised in the dominant discourse for management education, yet is well described by the complexity sciences.

“Stories like this are everywhere in the lived experience of managers. Stories which remind them constantly that while they might be in charge, they most definitely are not in control. There is no playbook, precedent or guru available for best practice. That’s why we created Complex Adaptive Leadership. Rather than training leaders for every response, it trains you to be responsive and adaptive,” Maxwell says.

In a world that craves clarity, the current climate is full of questions and uncertainty. This new approach is a program of practice for leaders to build their fitness for uncertainty and thrive in increasingly complex environments.

For more information, visit

Image: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

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